I feel like a different person. It may only be a few weeks ago but she – the sad and unwell shadow of me – already seems like a stranger. If I stop and force my mind, I can take myself to her: I was so exhausted even having a shower was a major effort; I was so stressed that tears were on permanent standby, ready to fall at the smallest upset; I felt desperate, crawling slowly through each day. I did my best to trust that the situation was temporary and that it – the heavy black cloud of CFS – would lift, but when you are feeling this awful you don’t believe you will ever feel normal again.
But I do. And it’s glorious. GLORIOUS.
It may be the physical that takes you down, but somewhere, in the messiness and unpleasantness of being unwell, the mind gets in on the act, and you get stuck – and in my experience it’s the mind that plays a big part of getting you unstuck and out the other side.
And on this occasion, my mind was given a rather generous helping hand from Mexico. Yes: the spoilt travel junkie has just received another fix, and it has quite simply brought me back to life.
The week before we went I was still very poorly, struggling to get ready for the trip, wondering if I should even be going. (We had talked about cancelling but that felt unpalatable. CFS steals enough from me, of me, it was not stealing Mexico.)
I also knew I was incredibly stressed: I was freaking out about being okay whilst we were away, and I knew I was making my symptoms worse. I was watching myself from the outside act like a crazy woman – but I couldn’t seem to stop this woman, who had taken residence in my apartment, oozing her whirlwind of stress. But the craziness also gave me this weird kind of comfort, because I knew without it, I had a good chance of feeling a lot better. Deep inside I knew a change of scenery, an adventure, was exactly what I needed to get out of the black hole.
As we left the apartment, I said goodbye to the crazy bitch. And as we walked towards the station I could feel the other me starting to break through. It was going to be okay. I was going to be okay.
First stop was Mexico City. Husband’s hotel points, accrued from working away, allowed us to book a fancy hotel, made even fancier by an upgrade. (I do like me some wife perks: Husband works hard, and I reap the rewards. Posh toiletries, plump pillows and truffles, anyone?) When I saw the size of the bed I wanted to dive at it, and jump up and down on it like an over excited child. I resisted, and sipped my complementary glass of wine, like an adult, and took in the fabulous view from the 27th floor.
Interesting buildings, crazy markets selling weird dolls with skull heads (Catrinas are dolls which have become an icon of the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, ‘Day of the Dead’, which remembers those who have died); ants’ eggs for lunch, eight policemen performing on a motorbike (yes!), Latin dancing in the squares, tasty tortillas from street vendors, and an art gallery featuring Diego Rivera – one of Mexico’s prominent artists – all made it a wonderful city adventure. I experienced more life in those few days than I had done for weeks. And the executive lounge – part of the upgrade package, darling – with its free wine, and tasty snacks, didn’t hurt, either.
Next up was the Monarch Butterfly Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a truly beautiful spot. The Monarch Butterflies – between sixty million and a billion – migrate to the forests in central Mexico every year from the USA and Canada. They are unfazed by human presence so you are literally seeing them going about their normal activities, in their natural environment – thousands of them. When it’s cool, the butterflies congregate on the trees, then as the sun comes out they open their wings to soak up the warm rays. It was one of those moments that stills every part of you; nature in all its amazing glory.
Our final destination was Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast. We stayed in an apartment overlooking the sea, which came with a complementary car (a red Beetle, with the license plate fun bug!). We went to the zoo and to the botanical gardens; we tracked down deserted beaches and splashed in the sea; we visited The Predator set, sought out local eating experiences, and mooched round the town – laughing at all the badly dressed tourists showing off too much flesh (not us, of course).
And it was my birthday whilst we were away. Husband had packed cards from friends and family, bought me some little presents to open, and offered to treat me to a piece of jewellery of my choice (well, I’m sure there was a financial limit!) whilst we were away; I got lovely messages from home and we went to a restaurant where the menu was a platter brought to the table with an array of ‘catches of the day’ for you to choose from. After saying I wasn’t really bothered about my birthday (you know the typical, ‘no need to make a fuss, darling’) I rather enjoyed all the fuss. I didn’t enjoy the 42 bit though. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
But the best gift (big cheesy, cheese alert!) was feeling strong and healthy again. I exercised most days and my body is back to feeling super-fit, well, at least fit. (Jumping up and down in the mornings on the terrace, overlooking the sea made me soooooo happy.) And we just did normal things whilst we were away, without my body making any complaints. My body and I are friends again. Good friends. The kind of friends who are in tune with each other (and most likely enjoy a glass of wine together).
As we unpacked, Husband came into the bedroom ‘oh, I forgot to give you this, as part of your birthday presents.’ It was a Peter Andre calendar. (Do not judge me, we all have our special crushes.) I laughed so hard I gave myself a little ab workout. Peter Andre had been to Mexico with me. Maybe Peter Andre is my guardian angel. Yes, maybe I need him with me at all times…